Governance & Politics
February 14, 2020

Transpo Futures South of the Fraser? Come to MOBILITIES 2020 in Surrey February 27 & March 19

Save The Dates. Join us in Surrey, Feb.27th & March 19th for MOBILITIES 2020. 

These two free ‘Mobilities 2020’ events are for anyone interested in transit, universal access, pedestrian, cyclist safety and transit justice issues, particularly in the fast growing urban-region South of the Fraser River.

These evening Geo-Forums are on Thursday, Feb.27th (7-9pm) and Thursday, March 19th (7-9pm) at KPUs new Civic Plaza Campus (just North of the Surrey Central Skytrain Station). Both evening KPU Geo-Forums will feature panel and Q+A discussions with city public transportation officials, urban planners, scholars, transit, universal access, cycling and pedestrian activists. All are welcome !

For more information and the free registration (recommended to ensure a seat), visit this site:

https://www.kpu.ca/arts/geography/news

 

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It will probably get worse.

From The Guardian:

London has achieved the impossible by eradicating the private car – and still having desperate traffic congestion,” says Prof Tony Travers, the director of LSE London, a research centre at the London School of Economics that explores the city’s economic and social concerns. “People keep saying we need to get the cars off the road. In central London, there aren’t any.” …

London brought in (a congestion charge) 17 years ago. … The number of cars in the City of London fell 15% either side of the introduction in 2003 of the congestion charge – allied since April 2019 with an ultra-low emission zone that more than doubles the daily charge for older diesel cars to £24. The city is also blessed with quicker, cheaper public transport alternatives. …

So why is traffic moving more slowly than ever?  Among most analysts, there is consensus on two underlying reasons: more vans and more Ubers. But in case we should feel righteously smug, Travers adds a list of contributors to the gridlock: “Cycle lanes, in some places, are bad. Ubiquitous four-way pedestrian crossing. Wider pavements. Any one of those makes perfect sense individually. But the buses are completely screwed.”

The bus easily outstrips the tube and rail as the main mode of transport for Londoners – even more so among disabled people, those with mobility problems and the poorest residents. Frozen prices, plus the introduction in 2016 of the hopper fare, which allows unlimited journeys within one hour for the cost of one trip, have made buses even cheaper under the current mayor, Sadiq Khan. However, the network has shrunk and patronage has declined in the past four years….

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On Tuesday night CBC radio hosted a special broadcast of their feature program, The Current with Matt Galloway. Never a program to shy away from controversy, the broadcast centered on “The Future of Vancouver’s Chinatown”. The event brought out a capacity audience of CBC afficiendos, passionate Chinatown supporters, and a cross section of people that would not look out of place at a community centre or any Vancouver civic gathering.

Matt Galloway had as panelists  Carol Lee, who is with the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation and the inspiration behind the wildly popular Chinatown BBQ, Jordan Eng from the Chinatown Business Improvement Association (BIA) and the Duke of Data and SFU Professor of City Planning Andy Yan.

All three panelists have deep roots in the Chinatown community and refreshingly they all saw the importance of this place not just for the city, but for its pivotal importance provincially and nationally. As Carol Lee poignantly noted the story of Chinatown goes back to the nation building  railroad across Canada where thousands of Asian labourers stitched the country’s rail tracks together. The “physical legacy of struggle and sacrifice” is also manifested in Chinatown which was built on a drainage swamp around 1885, the same time that the railway was completed. Andy Yan described Chinatown as “my muse and my tormentor“, in that this culturally rich place was always a neighbourhood of sanctuary and brought together many ethnic groups over time, and is important to maintain in a city built for everyone. How do you save what is integral to a community? How do you continue to provide the liveliness, the cultural activities, and social housing?

Carol Lee talked about the community handling the issues of homelessness, addiction and lack of inclusion, and the panel discussed the fact that the planning and solutions that work in Vancouver’s Chinatown can provide a pattern language for other downtown innercity neighbourhoods coping with similar issues. The BIA’s approach has been to focus upon cleanliness, graffiti and safety, with half the business association’s budget spent on security.

Several speakers active and engaged in Chinatown spoke about the importance of this place culturally and and as a destination. Despite the fact that there are other malls and places to go to that reflect Chinese culture, they are perceived as a substitute for the real thing. Architect Stanley Kwok who built the Crystal Mall in Burnaby and who has lived a half century in Vancouver questioned whether Chinatown needed to form a corporation to manage all the buildings, and whether the location was to be a museum or a living place. All speakers pointed to the importance of commerce in the area’s health, citing the importance of physical, economic and cultural revitalization.

The location of the new hospital precinct as well as the towers planned for the Northeast False Creek will provide plenty of customers for Chinatown businesses. In terms of housing, units that could accommodate older Chinese seniors and integrate with the community form and fabric was discussed.

This was a surprisingly rich and passionate discussion about Chinatown’s place as the “gateway to achieving Canadian dreams” and the importance of collaboration was stressed.

There was a puzzling reference and long dialogue  from a Vancouver City Councillor that Chinatown needed to work better with City Hall and that most of City Council were not on board in working towards Chinatown’s future.

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There’s been a lot of buzz on social media about the societal and cultural shifts  to make streets safer, more sustainable, and more equitable for all road users. This week the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety released their recommendations in Stockholm. Under the auspices of the World Health Organization and the Government of Sweden this work highlights the importance of synthesizing road safety, security, climate change and sustainable development goals.

The old model looked at road building, safety and health, and sustainability as separate line items instead of a synergistic model.  The first tenet developed by the Academic Expert Group was the reduction of all road speeds in cities to 30 kilometers per hour unless a “higher speed” can be proven safe. This provides more equity and less health risk for pedestrians and cyclists without the opportunity cost of fatalities and serious injuries.

Secondly globally road safety should have a more holistic approach involving  utilities, businesses, and cities, broadening the traditional responsibility of governmental authorities.

The need for oversight and quality assurance for all users of transportation corridors is is vital for citizens and sustainability, especially when transit and highway systems are controlled by one entity.

The list of participants in the process of developing these recommendations include top public health practitioners, and Dr. Fred Wegman, the inventor of the Safe Systems Approach.

You can watch the interview below of the Academic Expert Group participants as they explore their interests in developing a new road map to safe roads.

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Stats-and-numbers guy Andy Coupland does a backgrounder on The Grand Bargain and what Vancouverites (City and Metro) should know about this town.

Here’s the first post in the Andy Coupland Primer. Here’s the second. The third.  And now the fourth and final:

Random Acts of Density

Can the city or the region build itself out of the current ‘housing crisis’? The proportion of rental households actually went up in Vancouver between the 2011 and 2016 censuses (and in the rest of Metro too, although with a lower overall proportion renting). The past five years have seen over 33,000 starts in the city – the past four years have seen over 28,000.

But for the city to achieve an average 8,500 new units a year (the target the mayor has mentioned) would mean moving away from the caution we generally see.* Perhaps it won’t be as difficult as it seems. It was a bit surprising that there wasn’t pushback when Wall built a huge complex on Boundary Road, quite a way from the SkyTrain. That was the most extreme example (in Vancouver) of a street of modest houses replaced by over 1,000 condos in 32 floor buildings.

The take-up of the Cambie Plan also shows a different approach – not so much the six-storey buildings along Cambie already mentioned but the more recent additions. The City now has a method to fast-track rezoning for 1.4 FSR townhouses. One existing house can become six or even eight units, half of them 3-bed family-sized. There are already 32 projects as current rezonings – all but two approved in the past year. There are nine other sites already at Development Permit stage, and they represent 341 townhouses – which for Vancouver is a huge change.  The same sort of thing is happening in Marpole and Grandview Woodland, as those plans took the same forms and density.

That will be another way in which Vancouver will continue to grow in ways other municipalities don’t, because there’s actually a lot of change happening in some of Vancouver’s single-family neighbourhoods, which really isn’t the case in other municipalities. It would be interesting to know who is buying them. The family homes generally cost well over $1 million each – so more affordable than most existing Vancouver houses, but still a pretty steep haul to finance as a young couple.

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CBC’s The Current is Doing  a Broadcast on the Future of Chinatown Monday February 10.

Join Matt Galloway for a special show in Vancouver on Chinatown’s Future.

Matt Galloway is the host of CBC Radio’s The Current. (CBC)

Why a  forum all about the future of the city’s Chinatown?

It’s a part of the city that’s changing rapidly, and faces challenges from all sides. There are fewer visitors, growing pressures to develop, and long-established stores closing up.

Is it time to re-think the future of this once vibrant neighbourhood?

Join Galloway for a special taping of The Current: Vancouver’s Changing Chinatown.

Stay after the event for a chance to meet him.

Get your free tickets from Eventbrite by clicking this link.

Additional Information

Doors open: 6:30 p.m.

Taping: 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Location: Floata Seafood Restaurant, 180 Keefer St., Vancouver, BC V6A 1X4

All seats are first come, first served. There will also be a rush line at the event should tickets sell out.

Please contact the organizer at cbcradioevents@cbc.ca with any questions.

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Transparency is such an important quality and nothing is as vital when developers move existing established rental tenants out of buildings that they are refurbishing or redeveloping. The language of the Residential Tenancy Regulation indicates that

“The landlord may end the tenancy only for the reasons and only in the manner set out in the Residential Tenancy Act and the landlord must use the approved notice to end a tenancy form available from the Residential Tenancy office. The landlord and tenant may mutually agree in writing to end this tenancy agreement at any time.”

As Jen St. Den writes in BCTV News when Reliance Properties moved the tenants out of the twelve unit rental building at 1188 Bidwell Street and redeveloped a  20 storey 108 unit apartment building on the site, those existing tenants that wanted to stay thought they could return to that building at their old agreed upon rents and signed an agreement to vacate the old building. Their assumption was that after a two year time period that had been agreed to by the developer and the City, that rent increases for those returning tenants would only be the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for British Columbia, as stated in the Residential Tenancy Regulation.

Wrong.

Instead Reliance Properties trotted out “new” leases that brought the returning tenants’ rents up to “market rental levels” of   $2,350 a month for a one bedroom, and then offered those returning tenants a “rebate” to their old pre-development rent for two years. After that, the rent mushroomed up to the “new” rent, plus the percentage annual  increase in the CPI.

You can take a look at the agreement entered into between Reliance Properties and the City of Vancouver regarding the return of the existing tenants to the newly developed 1188 Bidwell that resulted in this ambiguity. This was approved by the Development Permit Board. It  states:

“That returning Eligible Tenants will be entitled to rent with a discount of 20% off starting rents. That discounted Starting Rents are applicable only to Eligible Tenants who exercise their right of first refusal and occupy a unit in the new development.”

Now there is a case of who said what, and exactly what a “starting rent” would be. There is  finger pointing from the City to the developer over the lack of clarity over correct lease execution,where it appears that the City’s intent was to allow the few returning tenants back in the building at their “old” rents, subject to annual adjustment.

In the end, it is the tenant who is left holding the bag, without enough disposable income  to continue living in the building. Those tenants feel bamboozled, and Reliance Properties whose website states “The company focuses on developing long-term tenant relationships and today, many Reliance tenants have been with the firm for over thirty years”  has developed a horrifying precedent. Clearly the City will need to spell out exact terms in future redevelopments.

 

There’s still time for Reliance to do the right thing and give this small handful of tenants the understood rent that they and the City believed was negotiated.

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Wednesday, Feb 19 – Places That Matter: Community Celebration

Hear the stories of Places That Matter sites from the people and organizations who brought their history forward.  This free celebration includes refreshments and displays related to Places That Matter sites and local history, a short program of inspirational storytelling, as well as live music from bluegrass band, Viper Central. For more information about the Places That Matter project visit vancouverheritagefoundation.org/places-that-matter.

Heritage Hall, 3102 Main St. 6 – 8:30pm, FREE

 

Friday, Feb 21 – Mid-Project Tour: St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church Seismic Upgrade and Heritage Restoration

Join us for a special opportunity to tour inside the landmark church as it undergoes seismic upgrading and heritage restoration during a two-year closure. This is a professional education event and all participants must supply specific safety equipment.

St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, 4 – 6 pm, $85

 

Sunday, Feb 23 – Something Old/Something New: Adaptive Reuse and Industrial Heritage Walking Tour

Today much of the early legacy of development in Mount Pleasant can be found with former industrial sites adapted to new uses. Join historian John Atkin to explore the challenges and benefits of adaptive reuse with examples found in this historic neighbourhood.

Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood. 10 am – 12 pm, $16

 

To purchase tickets or for more information visit www.vancouverheritagefoundation.org or call 604 264-9642.

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